Fuel Station Typologies

I couldn’t decide what to do for the second part of my typologies assignment so I took some inspiration from Ed Ruscha and his book ’26 Gasoline Stations’. Ruscha photographed all the fuel stations along the route from his home to his mother’s home but as I was not planning to visit my mother or take any other long journey I chose to photograph all of the fuel stations in Scunthorpe.

I set myself some fairly simple rules about how I would approach this. I planned to walk to each fuel station and photograph them from across the road, straight on, keeping the roof parallel to my camera. This meant that I was standing on public land and legally able to take photographs without needing permission. I would use my Fuji MX1 camera with the lens initially on 16mm but may zoom in a little further depending on how wide the road was in front of the garage. I would not be using a flash.

The first time I went out it was an overcast day and the sky was a fairly flat white, but as I walked around the sky turned darker and eventually I had to return home when the rain came. The next time I went out I used the car and was able to photograph the fuel stations much quicker and keep more consistency in the look of the sky. I chose not to photograph the fuel station at Asda as this is situated away from the road and would have meant that I needed to stand on private land to take the shot.

I chose to leave the images in colour as it is important in differentiating the branding of one fuel station from another. In post production I enhanced the colour by applying a camera profile in Lightroom that mimics Fuji Velvia film, I also spent a little time adjusting the highlights and shadows as each image was initially quite dark under the fuel station roof.

This is my final image:

Fuel Stations

As with my chocolate typologies I layered the fuel station images together in Photoshop, used the transform tool to align them as I wanted and adjusted the opacity of each layer to create this final layered image.

Fuel Stations merged

Although I have no particular interest in fuel stations, I’m really happy with this final image and pleased that I kept it all in colour.

Chocolate Typologies

For the first part of my typologies assignment I chose a subject that I have a lot of interest in: chocolate bars.

I had borrowed a lighting kit from the college for some portraits that I had been asked to do so while they were handy, I set them up in my front room. I didn’t have a high table so I set up my ironing board and and a white paper backdrop that I had. I didn’t want to get chocolate all over the backdrop so I also used a white chopping board to rest the chocolates on.

Lighting sketch for chocolate typologies

The chocolate bars can look similar from the outside so I wanted to cut each one open and photograph the filling. I wanted to photograph each bar, end on and at an angle where the rest of the bar would not be seen.

I was using a 50mm fixed lens so that I wouldn’t be tempted to zoom in and out and so that each bar would be photographed to scale with the others. I set my camera on a tripod so that the lens was level with the chocolate bar and set the ISO to 50. Then I set the lights so that I could use f5.6 in order to get the whole of the end of the chocolate bar in focus.

Initially I used a serrated knife to cut through each chocolate bar but this left distracting marks on the chocolate, so I tried again with a sharp non-serrated knife. When I was happy with the images I used Photoshop to whiten the background and remove any shadows and crumbs.

This is my final image:

Chocolate Typologies
Chocolate Typology


Inspired by the work of Idris Khan, using Photoshop I have also created a layered image of all of the chocolate bars.

Layered Chocolate Image
Layered Chocolate Image



Typology is a systematic classification or the study of types. In photography it usually consists of a series of photographs taken at the same angle, in the same lighting conditions and filling the same amount of frame. Individual images are then assembled as a panel.

Karl Blossfeld, Plant No.38

There are several significant photographers that have chosen this style for their work starting with Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) who used a home made camera that enlarged his subject by up to 30 times. He concentrated on photographing flowers, nuts, seeds and other plant life. When his work was eventually published in 1928 he became an international bestseller and his book has been a significant read for photographers and botanists ever since.

Probably the best well known photographers of this style are German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher. Beginning to work together in 1958 they began by travelling around the German Ruhr and Holland to large industrial sites and photographed the large structures they find there. They later also photographed in Britain, France, Belgium and USA.

Bernd and Hilla Becher. Winding Towers, Belgium, Germany.

Their images of water towers, blast furnaces, pitheads and winding towers are clearly detailed and appear to look more like diagrams than photographs.

The early morning flat light gives the viewer a detached feel and the inclusion of surrounding objects and buildings gives a very real sense of scale.

For the Becher’s, this style of photography came from a love of the environment and a desire to document and record the structures that were being dismantled as industry was disappearing.

In a different style, but also in the 1960’s, Ed Ruscha’s book ’26 Gasoline Stations’ is another notable typology. Taken between Ruscha’s home in Los Angeles and his parent’s home in Oklahoma City the photographs are all taken from the street and often include the forecourt and the street.

Ed Ruscha, 26 Gasoline Stations

Another project of Ruscha’s was to photograph every building on the Sunset Strip in Las Vegas.

Over the past decade, Donovan Wylie has photographed military watch towers around the world. First in Northern Ireland where he grew up and then on to places like Afghanistan and Canada.

The watchtowers are all shot at eye-level, often from a helicopter against a plain sky so that you can easily see the differences and similarities between them.

Donovan Wylie, A sign of things to come … Northern Ireland, 2006. South-east view of Golf 40, a British Army surveillance.


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